MANILA – The House of Representatives on Thursday approved on third reading a measure proposing a PHP1.3-trillion economic stimulus package to propel the country’s growth and development in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis.
With 216 affirmative votes, seven negative votes, and no abstention, the lower chamber passed on final reading House Bill 6815, otherwise known as the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE).
House ways and means committee chair Joey Sarte Salceda, the principal author of the bill, said the package is expected to protect and assist up to 15.7 million workers, create three million short-term jobs, and 1.5 million infrastructure jobs over three years, and help up to 5.57 million micro, small, and medium enterprises, both formal and non-formal.
He said it will cost about 3.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) or PHP688 billion in new spending on its first year.
“The GDP impact, based on our staff estimates, is immense: if the implementation is rapid within the year, we may see our GDP grow slightly by 0.2 percent from the current expected decline by -2.8 percent in 2020,” he said.
“Our principal socioeconomic priorities are full employment, full health, and full dignity for our people… we have come up with a package of interventions that respond to the country’s pressing needs without significantly weakening our fiscal fundamentals,” he added.
The bill seeks to mandate immediate mass testing for Covid-19 with an allocation of PHP10 billion for this year and another PHP10 billion next year.
Wage subsidies with a funding cost of PHP110 billion shall be provided to critically-impacted businesses, freelancers, the self-employed, and repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Under the bill, PHP25 billion shall be allocated for the cash for work program of the Department of Labor and Employment, and PHP42 billion worth of educational subsidies shall be provided for students.
The Small Business Corporation’s (SBCorp) existing loan programs for micro, small, and medium enterprises shall receive funding of PHP50 billion for 2020 and PHP25 billion for next year.
Interest-free loans with an allocation of PHP50 billion under the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) shall be offered to agri-fishery businesses and non-essential businesses that are small and medium enterprises, including startups.
The loan guarantee program by the Philippine Guarantee Corporation (PGC) shall have an allocation of PHP20 billion this year and another PHP20 billion next year. An amount of PHP20 billion is appropriated as additional paid-up capital of PGC.
The bill also provides sectoral interventions including PHP10 billion as additional assistance for MSMEs this year; PHP58 billion for the tourism industry; PHP70 billion for the transportation sector; PHP44 billion for the manufacturers, importers, exporters, and service sectors; and PHP15 billion shall be earmarked for the cash for work program in agriculture.
PHP66 billion shall be appropriated to the Department of Agriculture to support the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program under Executive Order 114 of 2020.
A National Emergency Investment Vehicle (NEIV) shall be created to enable faster recovery of certain critically-impacted businesses with an authorized capital stock of PHP100 billion.
Around PHP50 billion shall be appropriated as equity of the national government in NEIV for 2020 and 2021.
The bill proposes an enhanced “Build, Build, Build” program worth PHP650 billion in three years, provided that 20 percent shall be appropriated and released in 2020, 40 percent in 2021, and 40 percent in 2022. (PNA)